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The role of information search and its influence on risk preferences

Kopsacheilis, Orestis


Orestis Kopsacheilis


According to the ‘Description–Experience gap’ (DE gap), when people are provided with the descriptions of risky prospects they make choices as if they overweight the probability of rare events; but when making decisions from experience after exploring the prospects’ properties, they behave as if they underweight such probability. This study revisits this discrepancy while focusing on information-search in decisions from experience. We report findings from a lab-experiment with three treatments: a standard version of decisions from description and two versions of decisions from experience: with and without a ‘history table’ recording previously sampled events. We find that people sample more from lotteries with rarer events. The history table proved influential; in its absence search is more responsive to cues such as a lottery’s variance while in its presence the cue that stands out is the table’s maximum capacity. Our analysis of risky choices captures a significant DE gap which is mitigated by the presence of the history table. We elicit probability weighting functions at the individual level and report that subjects overweight rare events in experience but less so than in description. Finally, we report a measure that allows us to compare the type of DE gap found in studies using choice patterns with that inferred through valuation and find that the phenomenon is similar but not identical across the two methods.


Kopsacheilis, O. (in press). The role of information search and its influence on risk preferences. Theory and Decision,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 16, 2017
Online Publication Date Jul 6, 2017
Deposit Date Mar 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 26, 2018
Journal Theory and Decision
Print ISSN 0040-5833
Electronic ISSN 1573-7187
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Decisions from experience; Decisions from description; Risk preferences; Cumulative prospect theory; Uncertainty; Source method; Information search
Public URL
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10.1007%2Fs11238-017-9623-yOK.pdf (1.9 Mb)

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